Vulture visits the set-building factory for Saturday Night Live. Check out some great photographs and insights into how Eugene Lee and his team of designers create sets from scratch in only a day or two.
Tested visits the Jim Henson Creature Shop and gives us this great sixteen minute video. What I love about the Creature Shop (other than how awesome their puppets are) is how Jim Henson started out with simple hand puppets in the mid-50s, and today the company is on the leading-edge of animatronic creature design.
Rania Peet has some great projects over on her Instructables page, where she shows off the work she does as a Halloween haunt builder. I particularly like this chasing marquee “Freak Show” sign and these giant mushrooms.
If you love getting obsessive over the details on your paper props, check out the Passport Stamps and Visas group on Flickr. It’s chock full of interior pages of passports from around the world, as well as a few exterior covers as well.
As you may have noticed, articles on this blog have been appearing a little less frequently than before. I have decided to drop down to only two posts per week, rather than three. New articles will now be appearing every Tuesday and Friday. I have some ongoing family issues that take a lot of my time, and this seemed like a good way to ease the pressure without just totally dropping the blog altogether.
That being said, on to the links!
Volpin Props has a step-by-step guide up for his latest prop creation, a Magister’s staff from the Dragon Age video game. I’ve been following the progress of this piece on his Twitter and Facebook, and it’s great to see the whole thing finally come together. And, it’s a nice introduction to matrix molding.
I don’t know the source of this, but this video showing the inner workings of animatronic heads recently surfaced on the Internet. I find it fascinating to see all the mechanisms and bits that go on the inside, and how it all comes to life when the skin goes on top.
This comes from last July, but I never actually posted it: Ten Props that Have Been Used in More than One Movie. One day, I want to do this for my own shows, because some props in my stock seem to be trotted out for every other production.
Do you need a “Do Not Disturb” sign for your show? How about 8700 of them? Collector’s Weekly looks at the “Do Not Disturb” collection of Edoardo Flores, who has accumulated that many from hotels around the world.
Follow along with the story of Twan Baker, the prop baby who has been in two Broadway shows and over half a dozen regional theatre productions. He is kept and cared for by a growing family tree of actors and writers and has his own adventures.
Steve Hoefer has been writing a series of beginner’s guides to various tools, and his latest is on drills and bits. If you’ve ever grabbed a spade bit to drill through metal, please stop and read this guide first.
I’ve been watching some videos of the Creature Technology Company lately, which makes massive animatronic creatures for giant arena shows. This behind the scenes look at the How to Train Your Dragon Arena Spectacular shows just what I’m talking about.
Finally, are you a fan of the Fake and Bake blog (a blog all about making fake food)? Anna Warren, the writer and a good friend, has branched out and started a company called Tactile Craftworks making handmade and hand-bound leather journals with etched details (among other things). They have just started a Kickstarter to produce an Atlas Series of journals, with covers of maps of either Milwaukee or Chicago. Head on over and check it out, and maybe pick up a journal or two!
I caught a few episodes of Jim Henson’s Creature Shop a while back when my wife was in the hospital. It was very entertaining and informative, and probably the closest a reality show has come to portraying what prop builders actually do (though the show deals with creature building). I recently found that the SyFy website has some companion Creature Feature videos to go with the show.
In the videos, the expert mentors on the show, Peter Brooke, John Criswell and Julie Zobel, take you through the process of building a creature. They start with design and sculpting, go through the animatronics, show you different finishing techniques, and end with how puppeteers bring it to life. It’s not an explicit “how-to” guide, since they gloss through everything quickly and don’t go into details. But if you have some experience, it is great to see how the masters do it, since you can get a lot of inspiration of new things to try on your own.
Gothamist has behind-the-scenes photos from Shakespeare in the Park, as well as how they make blood for Shakespeare in the Park. Both links feature the Public Theater’s costume master Luke McDonough, as well as my old boss, props master Jay Duckworth.
Harrison Krix is back with another great project, a life-sized shark gun from League of Legends. I don’t do the video games, so I don’t really know what that is, but it looks cool and lights up and opens its mouth.
Ars Technica has a fascinating article on how Disney built and programmed an animatronic President. D23 has a similar article; though theirs has far less of the technical information, they have many more pictures of the other animatronics used at Disney parks.
Finally, here is an interesting piece called “Practical Effects Can’t Make a Comeback Because They Never Went Away“. While the article itself raises some good points, it also contains a fair amount of videos giving behind-the-scenes looks at the practical effects in various films from throughout the years.